Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Tasmanian devil cancer research down a blind alley?

Scientists have been investigating a deadly disease afflicting the Tasmanian devil, a carnivorous marsupial on the verge of extinction due to what is called devil facial tumour disease or DFTD.

They have followed a single research pathway, assuming the cancer is an allograft, namely a transmissible tumour.

For a decade, investigations into possible alternative explanations for DFTD have been neglected, despite calls for transmission studies.

Cui et al in a paper published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications on 20 May 2016 provide evidence that DFTD is actually not a transmissible tumour.

They say that Tasmanian-government-sponsored research into the devil cancer ‘could only have proved that DFTD tumours were clonal’, namely in a cell line, but not transmissible.

Cui et al proved that DFTD tumours in male devils ‘were induced in their own hosts’, so they were not induced from cells from another devil’s tumour.

This is evidence that the claim that a single ‘rogue’ cancer originating in a female devil ‘was incorrect’.

Cui et al are undertaking further research to investigate the possible role of viral induction of DFTD.

Studies into the possible role of pesticides and poisons that have polluted the devils’ environment are still urgently needed.

Download, read for yourself …


*Dr Jody Warren is Honorary Post-Doctoral Research Associate, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Jack Lumber

    June 2, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    re 17 and 18

    karl so you are sure climate change wont be part of the next RFA criteria . How do you know this ?

    John While I agree a certain GBE does like to spend money , i think you will find the $ are going into training and research and not FT

    re Sawawak yes its an issue re palm oil but please don’t drift into areas you appear to know little about . leave that to others

    Any complaints suggest you send to Sen J Rice Australian Greens

    NB Peter Ms Blainey wanted to know where the $ came from so its not a mispost

  2. Karl Stevens

    June 2, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Pete Godfrey 13. I would say Jack Lumber seems to know that tree plantations are implicated in DFTD.
    Go easy on him, Jack is celebrating 40 years (2 X 20) of Regional Forest Agreements. RFA’s where climate change was never factored in at all.
    Isn’t logging the same as coal mining if coal is just fossilised trees?

  3. john hayward

    June 2, 2016 at 12:39 am

    Lumber, #12. That’s wonderful about the plantations, but the Tasmanian loggers would swallow $20m in a few weeks. Your best bet is still being annexed by Sarawak.

    Russell,#16. Tas forestry was using a number of mutagens and carcinogens besides 1080, including an agrobacterium that is specifically used as a mutagen for GM purposes.

    John Hayward

  4. Russell

    June 1, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    You will find one day when the truth is allowed to surface that 1080 is the cause for DFTD and it is transferred when feasting on such affected wallaby, etc. carcasses.

    Overlap the three maps of plantations, 1080 areas and known DFTD ocurrences and see what’s in common. There are records of all three.

  5. Jack

    June 1, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    One of the first things I asked the staff upon volunteering was ‘Is this caused by chemicals?’

    To which they took some time to tell me about the research and the way the cancer is transmitted, and the fact there have been die-offs in the Devil population before. Surely though, the chemicals don’t help?

  6. Dave Parsell

    June 1, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Us humans are told not to eat food that may have had chemicals on it as it may cause cancer. Devils eat dead animals that are killed by poison and get cancer, gosh, wonder why they get it!?

  7. Pete Godfrey

    June 1, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    #12 seems to be a mis post, nothing to do with the article.
    If you want comment on it Jack, write an article and put it up on TT.

  8. Jack Lumber

    June 1, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    re 9
    Just read summary of AFPA forum held in Canberra last nite .

    Nice to see Sen J Rice support $20million R and D funding for plantations . Such good news

    So in answer to your question , talk to the Australian Greens .


    and looks like the RFA processes will be supported . Have to reflect changes in science and community veiws etc but hopefuly another 20 years .

  9. Karl Stevens

    June 1, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Another Tasmanian mystery is why Will Hodgman, who identifies as ‘Liberal’ invited scientists from a totalitarian Maoist dictatorship to collaborate on devil facial tumour research?


    And they produced a paper in 6 months finding the exact results they had already suspected?

  10. john hayward

    May 31, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    I’m baffled at what kind of hypothesis could explain DFTD epidemiology if it isn’t transmissible between devils.

    As far as I’m aware, FT is the only Tasmanian entity with supernatural capabilities.

    John Hayward

  11. Alison Bleaney

    May 31, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Interesting that not only have the Devils another new cancer as well as the DFTD, but the quolls are on decline…It is rather disturbing that the powers that be that control the research funding have not sought to look at ecosystem health in those areas most badly affected. These days there are so many biocides thrown willy nilly into our catchments that most critters would have to be exposed to some degree or another.
    What now DPIPWE and UTAS? Any ideas and funding proposals for research, more than 2 decades after the discovery of a novel transmissible cancer in Tassie’s newest top order carnivore?
    6M dollars has just flown into a new forestry hub – the National Institute of Forest Products Innovation – in Launceston to investigate how to innovate forest management…(A total of 12M for Tas and SA)…what say you to funding some work on these areas?

  12. Pete Godfrey

    May 31, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Strange isn’t it that we have always been told that it was a strange new type of transmissible cancer.

    Only lately on TT have we read of events in New Zealand where many non target species are affected by 1080. Here we have always been told that 1080 only affects the target species. That it does not affect Devils, birds, Quolls etc.

    Funny how we have selective 1080 here and in N.Z their 1080 kills almost everything it comes into contact with.

    I guess we will have to wait 30 or so more years before any secret reports into Devil Facial Tumour disease are released to find out the real truth.

  13. Jack Lumber

    May 31, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    re #3 thank you .

    And also to the editors, appreciate that the standard of articles (other than this one) is more thoughtful in the last few weeks .

    thanks again and I look forward to TT returning to be a forum where all topics are raised.

  14. Derbytas

    May 31, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    In the early days of DFTD it was reported that the affected devils had very high levels of fire retardants in their tissue.

    Fire retardants are very toxic and fire retardants are used quire indiscriminately in forest areas, in my opinion, during hazard reduction and bushfire suppression.

    I recommend they start looking there.

  15. Water Wizard

    May 31, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Have now read report.

    Chicken tried and infected with similar tumor.

    This is not good. Its not a virus.

    Try a pig next.

    If it affects pigs it will affect humans.

    Someone needs to find out what causes it as it will be moving up the food chain, asap.

  16. Water Wizard

    May 31, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    More likely a “fox” job creation scheme to rip off the mainland tax pool.

    The main thing is to never find a solution and demand more funding at every senate election.

    Rent seeking is a national sport.

    Amazed no-one has blamed the Devil tumor on carbon dioxide and coal yet.

    Mad thing is coal may well be indirectly to blame. Could equally be pesticides. May be fox baits.

    The main thing to do is to see if another animal can be affected in a similar manner. Try something close the gene type of a devil.

    If it can, we can expect to find a poison that will eventually show up affecting humans. It just takes 20 years.

  17. Doug Nichols

    May 31, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Re #1, it will be interesting to hear how this unfolds, but why do you say it is a “cover up”? I had a quick look at the paper; I didn’t see any mention of cover-ups. I also didn’t see any mention of agricultural poisons (the paper mentions a virus as a possible means of transmission). As for your claim that it “goes against all common sense”, a) why do you say that? and b) even supposing it does, so what? Common sense is not always a reliable guide to what is true and what is false.

    If there is anything to the findings in the paper then we might expect it to be followed up with some further studies and it might even then lead us towards a solution. Or the original hypothesis might be right … I’m certainly in no position to comment one way or the other.

  18. O'Brien

    May 31, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Time after time DPIPWE seems to be the focus of allegations concerning irregularities to put it politely. How many millions and millions of our dollars are continually channeled along peculiar routes? Why is that?

  19. Elizabeth

    May 31, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I was saying this years ago, to the 100’s of tourists I took to Devil Parks as part of my work. The whole notion of ‘transferable cancers’ and ‘insufficient gene pool’ that was being officially spruiked goes against all common sense.

    Many tourists agreed with me that it was likely a gvt line in order to hide the fact that Tassie is not in fact a clean green place, but one filled with agricultural poisons, esp from the forestry industry. Plus, that would not attract international funding and sympathy, but the poor devil beset by an insidious cancer does…Just another cover-up, and great to see it challenged!

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